Interview with Sharmon Hilfinger in the Palo Alto Daily News, July 14, 1999.


When asked what is the hardest part of writing a play, Palo Alto playwright Sharmon Hilfinger laughed, “Getting it produced.” So Hilfinger and her partners are self producing her new play “A History of Things That Never Happened” next month at the Magic Theater in San Francisco. The 17-year Palo Alto resident took a circuitous route to playwriting. She studied as an actress, receiving an under-graduate degree in theater at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1972. “But when I finished,” said Hilfinger, “I didn’t have a thick enough skin to pursue acting. So I abandoned theater.

“I got involved in the women-go-to-work movement, and went into business. This was in the 1970s, and I got to do ground breaking things in industry.

“I was hired as the first female claims adjuster at Aetna Life and Casualty. Married and had kids “I was in the first batch of female sales people at Harper and Row. I stayed close to publishing and went on to software publishing.”

“After a while I got married and had kids. I woke up one day and said, ‘What happened to theater? why didn’t I take the road less traveled?’

“I love the theater. I had a baby on my hands, so I didn’t think I would be able to follow the acting route with its 6 p.m. to midnight schedule. I’d never written a play, but I started writing one, and I’ve been doing that now for 13 years. I’ve written five plays. All have had public readings. ‘An Ideal Mother’ was produced by the Menlo Players Guild at Burgess Theater in 1992."‘A History Of Things That Never Happened’ is my second one to receive a full production.” Hilfinger thinks of her play as an “unromantic comedy,” although there is romance in it, and a lot of comedy.

“It is about a 50-year-old woman who revisits her romantic failures through the course of the play,” she said, “and comes to terms with them. Looking within. She learns that what she’s looking for in a man is something she needs to find in herself.” “A History Of Things That Never Happened” centers on a middle-aged man and woman who enter into a bi-coastal postcard correspondence of mistaken identities, which in turn fuels fantasies based in literary masterpieces.

Subplots involve their grown children, motorcycle construction, and the trials of young romance. When the two misguided correspondents finally meet, the play comes to a surprising conclusion.

HIlfinger’s production partners in this venture are local attorney Beverly Altschuler and Jordan Middle School drama teacher Jeanie K. Forte. Forte has a Ph.D. in Dramaturgy, and served as dramaturg on the project.

Sharmon Hilfinger putting on a boot
Palo Alto playwright 
Sharmon J.Hilfinger.

The three women comprise BootStrap Foundation Productions which is renting the Magic Theater in San Francisco in July and August.

They have raised $50,000 to stage the show professionally, and are looking for a little more money.

Opens July 14

BootStrap is producing Hilfinger’s play under an Actors Equity union contract, employing four equity actors, two non-equity actors, and an equity stage manager.

“We tried to produce the play down here on the Peninsula,” said Hilfinger,”but we found no stages available. Cubberley had only random spotty nights available. Lucie Stern had only after-noons available ‘in front of the curtain.’”